The Sound and the Fury: Oratory of Conquest

            The writer Hunter Thompson once quipped that if George McGovern had Sitting Bull for a speech writer, he would have been a shoe-in for the U.S. presidency in 1972.   Right or wrong, Thompson's rich bit of hyperbole makes an important point: some of America's greatest orators learned their speaking skills not in political campaigns or halls of Congress, but around council fires. 

            As you will see when you survey some of the following speeches, Native America's greatest oratory soars across the centuries with eloquence, passion, political insight, and moral authority that would be the envy of Cicero's most gifted students.   Their words are leavened by the surprising oratory of many of the military generals who faced them in battle and/or were charged with clearing the American landscape of Native peoples to make way for 'civilization and progress.'

              Thankfully, the oratory of conquest resides in the public domain.   Speeches, letters, and other documents cited below have been collected from numerous sources, including collections likeFrom the Heart: Voices of the American Indian,edited and annotated by Lee Miller, andTouch the Earth,edited by T.C. McLuhan. 

            What is important to remember as we read thru these remarkable documents is that each one is endemic to the American experience.  As these words attest, that experience has been much richer, more diverse and complex, and far more wrought with paradox and ambiguity, than the American history portrayed on the pages of conventional text books.  What we find in these speeches is a big story, one that much better serves us as citizens and tenants of this complex and legendary landscape we call America.  



            The English settlers at Jamestown make first contact with the Powhatan.

           "The Powhatan are souls drowned in flesh and blood, rooted in evil, and opposed in good; errors of Nature, or inhumane Birth.  The very dregs, garbage, and spawned of the Earth.  Who never (I think) were mentioned with those creatures Adam gave names to in their several natures but such as coming of a later brood.  Since the great Flood they have sprung up like vermine (sic) of an earthly slime...Fathered by Satan, and the sons of hell."

                                                Christopher Brooke, Englishman


            "I have seen two generations of my people die.  Not  man of the two generations is alive now but myself.  I know the difference between peace and war better than any men in my country...Why will you take by force what you may have quietly by love?  Why will you destroy us who supply you with food?  What can you get by war?  Why are you jealous of us?  We are unarmed, and willing to give you what you ask, if you come in a friendly manner, and not with swords and guns, as if to make war upon us.  I am not so simple as not to know that it is much better to eat good meat, sleep comfortably, live quietly with my wives and children, laugh and be merry with the English, and trade for their copper and hatchets, than to run away from them and lie cold in the woods...and to be so hunted that I can neither eat nor I must end my miserable life."

                                                Wahunsonacock, Powhatan                                               


             Agouachimagan, of theAlgonquintribe, challenges the teachings of the Jesuit missionaries who have come to live among his people:

           "...I understand that your town is shaken by the words of the black robes, that several have already received Baptism, that a larger number desire it, and that you yourselves lend ear to these words which charm at the first impression.  But without doubt you ignore, my brothers, where these promises of eternal life end.  I have been among the French at Quebec and at Three Rivers: they taught me the foundation of their doctrine.  But the more thoroughly I examined their mysteries, the less clearly I saw the light.  They are tales invented to inspire us with true beliefs of an imaginary fire and, under the false hope of a good which never will come to us, engage us in inevitable unhappiness."

                                                Agouachimagan, Algonquin



            Given by an anonymousLenapeleader after trouble with the English:

           "When the English arrived, they looked about everywhere for good spots of land, and when they found one, they immediately and without ceremony possessed themselves of it; we were astonished, but still we let them go on, not thinking it worth while to content for a little land.  But when at last they came to our favorite spots...then bloody wards ensued: we would have been contented that the white people and w should have lived quietly beside each other, but these white men encroached so fast upon us, that we saw at once we should soon loose all if we did not resist them....We were enraged when we saw the white people put our friends and relatives o board of their ships and carry them off to sea, whether to drown or sell them as slaves...we knew not, but certain it is that none of them have ever returned or even been heard of."

                                                Anonymous, Lenape



King Philip, leader of the Wampanoag, on European justice:

           "My brother...came miserably to die, by being forced to Court and poisoned...If 20 of our honest Indians testify that an Englishman has done us wrong, it is as nothing, and if but one of our worst Indians testifies against any Indian or myself when it pleases the English, that is sufficient."

                                                King Philip, Wampanoag



King Phillip addresses his people during the pivotal conflict with European settlers in their midst:

           "Brothers, you see this vast country before us, which the Creator gave to our fathers and us; you see the buffalo and deer that now are our support.  Brothers, you see these little ones, our wives and children, who are looking to us for food and raiment; and you now see the foe before you, that they have grown insolent and bold; that all our ancient customs are disregarded; that treaties made by our fathers and us are broken, and all of us insulted; our council fires disregarded, and all of the ancient customs of our fathers; our brothers murdered before our eyes, and their spirits cry to us for revenge.  Brothers, these people from the unknown world will but down our groves, spoil our hunting and planting grounds, and drive us and our children from the graves of our fathers, and our council fires, and enslave our women and children."


After King Phillip's children and wife are sold into slavery by the European clergy in Bermuda:

           "My heart breaks, now I am ready to die."

                                                King Philip, Wampanoag                                               



            The Penobscot fight back against incursions on their land and resources by English settlements.    This is from a speech by a Penobscot chief, Kadokawando, to the English interlopers:

           "We were driven from our corn last year by the people about Kennebeck, and many of us died.  We had no powder and shot to kill venison and fowl with, to prevent it.  If you English were our friends as you pretend you are, you would not suffer us to stave as we did."

                                                            Kadokawando, Penobscot



            The Natchez battle for their survival against the encroachment of Europeans on their lands in the South.

           " order to live in peace among ourselves, and to please the supreme Spirit, we must indispensably observe the following points; we must never know any other woman besides our own; we must never lie nor get drunk;  we must not be avaricious, but must give liberally, and with joy, part of what we have to others who are in ant, and generously share our subsistence with those who are in need of it."

                                                Guardian of the temple,  Natchez


            Many southern tribes found themselves caught up wars between the French and English, and later, between the English and the American settlers.  None were more deeply impacted than the Cherokee, whose civilization covered much of the southeastern forests.

            "It is a little surprising that when we entered into treaties with the whites, their whole cry was for more land!  Indeed, it seemed to be a matter of formality with them to demand what they knew we dared not refuse.  If reconnoitering a country is sufficient reason to ground a claim to it, we shall insist upon transposing the demand, and your relinquishing your settlements....Let us examine the facts of your present eruption into our country, and we shall discover your pretentions on that ground.  What did you do?  You marched into our territories, you killed a few scattered and defenseless individuals, you spread fire and desolation wherever you pleased, and then you returned to your own habitations...Again, were we to inquire by what law or authority you set up a claim, I answer, None!  Your laws extend not into our country, nor ever did!"

                                                Onitositah,  Cherokee


            "We had hoped the white men would not be willing to travel beyond the mountains; now that hope is gone.  They have passed the mountains, and have settled upon Cherokee land....Finally, the whole country, which the Cherokees and their fathers have so long occupied, will be demanded, and the remnant of the Ani Yunwiya, The Real People, once so great and formidable, will be compelled to seek refuge in some distant wilderness.  There, they will be permitted to stay only a short while, until they again behold the advancing banners of the same greedy host...Should we not therefore run all risks and incur all consequences, rather than submit to further laceration of our country?  Such treaties may be all right for men who are too old to hunt or fight.  As for me, I have my young warriors about me.  We will have our lands."

                                                Tsiyu Gansini, Cherokee



            President George Washington spent more time on Indian affairs than on any other single aspect of statecraft during his presidency.   Among all the founders, Washington was the most worried that future generations of Americans would not fulfill their obligations to the tribes. 

            "The President of the United States entertains the opinion that the war which exists is founded in error and mistake on your parts.  That you believe the United States want to deprive you of your lands and drive you out of the country.  Be assured this is not so; on the contrary, that we should be greatly gratified with the opportunity of imparting to you all the blessings of civilized life, of teaching you to cultivate the earth, and raise corn; to raise domestic animals, to build comfortable houses, and to educate your children, so as ever to dwell upon the land."

                                                George Washington, President of the United States


1795 - Treaty of Greenville           

            This treaty was supposed to bring peace between the new republic of the United States and the tribes in the 'northwest': Wyandots, Delawares, Shawanese, Ottawas, Chippewas, Pattawatamies, Miamies, Eel Rivers, Weas, Kickapoos, Piankeshaws, and Kaskaskias.  But the treaty is a farce, and the incursions of white settlers on Indian lands soon make it clear to the tribes that the new republic has no intention of fulfilling its treaty obligations.

            "The heavens and earth are my heart, the rising sun my mouth...I dare not tell a lie.  Now, my not deceive us in the manner that the French, the British, and Spaniards, have done before.  The English abused us much...they have proved to us how little they have ever had our happiness at heart.  Be you strong, and preserve your word inviolate.  I am old now, but I shall never die.  I shall always live in my children, and children's children."

                                                            New Corn, Potawatomi


1807 - 1812

            As white citizens pour over the mountains into Indian country, skirmishes between settlers and tribes become more intense with each passing year.  President Thomas Jefferson hopes to turn the Louisiana Territory, west of the Mississippi River, into a new Indian country.

            "... we have learnt that some tribes are already expressing intentions hostile to the United States, we think it proper to apprise them of the ground on which they now stand...if ever we are constrained to lift the hatchet against any tribe, we will never lay it down till that tribe is exterminated, or driven beyond the Mississippi River."

                                                             Thomas Jefferson, U.S. President


            "Our enemies are not sufficiently humbled -- they do not sue for peace.  Buried in ignorance, and seduced by the false pretences of their prophets, they have the weakness to believe they will still be able to make a decided stand against us.  They must be undeceived, and made to atone their obstinacy and their crimes, by still further suffering."

                                                            Andrew Jackson, U.S. Army


1812 - 1820s

            The tribes of the Ohio Valley and the 'northwest' (Indiana, Illinois) were the first to learn that the white man's promises made around a treaty council were not to be trusted.  The leaders Tecumseh and Black Hawk would strike heavy blows against the Americans, but in the end their campaigns to retain their treaty-protected homelands would fail.


           "As they (Indians) possess a rich, beautiful and extensive tract of land, surrounded by white settlers, such a fertile spot is an object of desire to avaricious white men.  Hence the whites ardently desire to see the Wyandot reservation exposed to sale.  Agents and officers of every description press the subject by every means in their power.  The white people have impoverished them much by stealing almost all their horses.  Thus they are beset by importunate and interested persons, so as to produce divisions among themselves.  If they stay where they are they are robbed and harassed."

                                                            Rev. Charles Elliot, United States citizen


           "If there be one here tonight who believes that his rights will not, sooner or later, be taken from him by the avaricious Americans...his ignorance out to excite pity, for he knows little of the character of our common foe."

                                                            Tecumseh, Shawnee


           " Have you not heard at evening those mournful sounds that steal through the deep valleys and along the mountain sides?  These are the wailings of those spirits whose bones have been turned up by the plow of the white man and left to the mercy of the rain and wind...The eastern tribes have long since disappeared - even the forests that sheltered them are laid low...and such, sooner or later, will be the fate of other tribes...They will vanish like a vapor from the face of the earth:  their very history will be lost in forgetfulness, and the places that now know them will know them no more.  We are driven back until we can retreat no farther....a little longer and the white man will cease to persecute us, for we shall cease to exist!"

                                                            Tenskwatawa, Shawnee


           "The only time the Americans shook hands was when they wanted another piece of Menominee land."

                                                            Oshkosh, Menominee


            "The earth s the floor, the clear sky is the roof, a blazing fire is the chair of the chief orator, and the green grass is the seats of our chiefs.  You speak by papers, and record your words in books; but we speak from our hearts, and memory records our words in the hearts of our people..."

                                                            Grizzly Bear, Menominee


            "How smooth must be the language of the whites, when they can make right look like wrong, and wrong like right.  I was puzzled to find out how the white people reasoned; and began to doubt whether they had any standard of right and wrong!"

                                                            Black Hawk,  Sauk


            "You know the cause of our making war.  It is known to all white men and they ought to be ashamed of it.  The white men despise the Indians and drive them from their homes, but the Indians are not deceitful.  The Indian does not tell lies; Indians do not steal...We told them to let us alone and keep away from us, but they followed on and beset our paths and they coiled themselves among us like the snake.  They poisoned us by their touch."

                                                            Black Hawk, Sauk



            Andrew Jackson knew well that he did not defeat the Redsticks; he only won a battle, writes Lee Miller in her book,From the Heart.  If Jackson was not convinced that extinguishing a people's spirit is no easy task, then the Seminole Wars would finish the job.  Now he was battling the inspired chief, Osceola, who was confident in the Seminole's cause and his tribe's ability to prevail.  Eventually captured under a flag of truce, Osceola is confined as a prisoner of war in the Spanish fortress of San Marcos, where he will die. 

           "I have done nothing to be ashamed of; it is for those to feel shame who entrapped me."           

                                                            Osceola, Seminole


            "We learn...that a vessel with thirty-three blood-hounds, from Cuba, had entered one of the ports....They are to be employed in hunting down the miserable remnant of the Seminoles in Florida.  We have never read anything more strikingly illustrative of the inhumanity and injustice of this war than these remarks...

            A great, powerful, and magnanimous nation of fifteen millions of freemen, hunting down with blood-hounds a wretched squad of Indians, dwelling in a country which no white man can inhabit after it is conquered!  A war which will complete the solitude of a desert, by destroying the remnant of life that remains in it...With what degree of condemnation with the good and wise of every country and age regard the attempt of our Government to extirpate, by means so terrible..."

                                                            Editorial board, New York New World



            At the urging of President Andrew Jackson, the U.S. Congress passes a law that ushers in 'the removal era' for tribes still living east of the Mississippi River.  Despite a ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court that found removal to be unconstitutional and forbidden by federal statutes, Jackson and his allies in southern state governments pressed ahead with their long-cherished dream for forcibly removing all Indian nations to 'unoccupied lands' west of the Mississippi.  Commonly, the Trail of Tears refers to the forcible removal of the Cherokee.  In fact, dozens of tribes experienced their own Trail of Tears between 1830 and 1842. 

           "When you were young, we were strong; we fought by your side; but our arms are now broken.  You have grown large, my people have become small.  Brother, my voice is weak, you can scarcely hear me;  it is not the shout of a warrior, but the wail of an infant.  I have lost it in mourning over the misfortunes of my people.  These are their graves, and in those aged pines the ghosts of the departed.  Their ashes are here, and we have been left to protect them...Their tears came in the rain drops, and their voices in the wailing winds, but the pale faces knew it not, and our land was taken away."

                                                Colonel Webb, Choctaw


(On the Trail of Tears)

            " come that Cherokees will have to leave and go to a new land.  Big prison pens are built and all Cherokees what won't get up and leave are put in pens.  Log time we travel on way to new land.  Women cry and make sad wails.  Children cry and many men cry, and all look sad when friends die, but they say nothing.  They put heads down and keep on going toward west.  Many days pass and people die very much.  No Cherokee will ever laugh again after he has marched this long trail."

                                                Anonymous, Cherokee


            "We have been made to drink of the bitter cup of humiliation; treated like dogs, our lives, our liberties, the sport of the Whiteman; our country and the graves of our Fathers torn from us, in cruel succession until...we find ourselves fugitives, vagrants, and strangers in our own country."

                                                John Ross, Cherokee


            "In America, the perpetrator of a wrong never forgives his victim."

                                                John Ross, Cherokee


            "Murder is murder and somebody must answer, somebody must explain the streams of blood that flowed in the Indian country...Somebody must explain the four thousand silent graves that mark the trail of the Cherokees to their exile.

            Let the Historian of a future day tell the sad story with its sighs, its tears and dying groans.  Let the Judge of all the earth weigh our actions and reward us according to our work."

                                                John Burnett, U.S. Army.


            "They have neither the intelligence, the industry, the moral habits, nor the desire of improvement....Established in the midst of another and superior race, they must necessarily yield and ere long disappear."

                                                President Andrew Jackson


            "No state can achieve proper culture, civilization, and long as Indians are permitted to remain."

                                                President Martin Van Buren           



            Once again, small-pox ravages the plains tribes, none worse than the Mandan, who lost all but a handful of their tribes.

           "When the great chief came to visit us a few years ago, he said to us: My children, be faithful to the whites, obey our Great Father, keep the peace and do not break your word, and the smoke of your fires will go straight up to the sky.

            We have done as our Great Father ordered, and, in spite of all, the smoke of our fires instead of rising straight up towards the heavens, is thrown upon the ground and has been chased by all the winds."

                                                            Crow Belly, Hidatsa


            "...we have the most frightful accounts of the ravages of the small-pox among the Indians.  It has converted the peaceful settlements of those tribes into desolate and boundless cemeteries.  The number of the victims within  few months is estimated at 30,000.  The small-pox was communicated to the Indians by a person who was on board the steam-boat which went up to the mouth of the Yellow Stone, to convey both the government presents for the Indians, and the goods for the barter trade of the fur dealers.  The ravages of the disorder were the most frightful among the Mandans, where it first broke out.  That once powerful tribe, which had already been reduced to 1500 souls, was exterminated, with the exception of thirty persons....The prairie all around is a vast field of death, covered with unburied corpses, and spreading, for miles, pestilence and infection."

                                                            Maximilian, Prince of Wied


            "My friends, listen to what I have to say.  Ever since I can remember I have loved the whites, I have lived with them ever since I was a boy, I have never wronged a white man, I have always protected them from the insults of others...and how have they repaid it.  With ingratitude!  I have never called a white man a dog, but today, I pronounce them to be a set of black hearted dogs.  They have deceived me...I don not fear death my friends, you know it, but to die with my face rotten, that even the wolves will shrink with horror at seeing me, and say to themselves, that is the Four Bears, the friend of the whites..."

                                                            Four Bears, Mandan



            The first 'removal era' ended in the 1840s, but just as leaders of those tribes predicted a generation earlier, tribes living west of the Mississippi river would soon endure the same pressures of white migration.  The pleas and protests of Indian leaders like Sitting Bull, Black Kettle, and Satanta, reached new levels of eloquence and despair.

           "All we as is that we may have peace with the whites....We want to take good tidings home to our people, that they may sleep in peace.  I want you to give all the chiefs of the soldiers here to understand that we are for peace, and that we have made peace, that we may not be mistaken by them for enemies."

                                                            Black Kettle, Southern Cheyenne


            "I once thought that I was the only man that persevered to be the friend of the white man, but since they have come and cleaned out our lodges, horses, and everything else, it is hard for me to believe white men any more."

                                                            Black Kettle, Southern Cheyenne


            "I have heard that you intend to settle us on a reservation near the mountains.  I don't want to settle.  I love to roam over the prairies.  There I feel free and happy, but when we settle down we grow pale and die.  I have laid aside my lance, bow, and shield, and yet I feel safe in your presence.  I have told you the truth.  I have no little lies hid about me....A long time ago this land belonged to our fathers; but when I go up to the river I see camps of soldiers.  These soldiers cut down my timber, they kill my buffalo, and when I see that, my heart feels like bursting."

                                                            Satanta, Kiowa   



            Hundreds of Cheyenne are killed in an infamous massacre at Sand Creek carried out by a Methodist minister, Col. John Chivington, and his troops.  In testimony before Congress, members of Chivinton's command described the mayhem on that frigid December morning:


           "The Cheyenne will have to be soundly whipped before they will be quiet.  If any of them are caught in your vicinity kill them, as that is the only way."

                                    Col. John Chivington. U.S. Army


           "There was one little child, probably three years old, just big enough to walk through the sand.  The Indians had gone ahead, and this little child was behind following them.  The little fellow was perfectly naked, travelling on the sand.  I saw one man get off his horse and draw up his rifle and fire.  He missed the child.  Another man came up and said, "Let me try the son of a bitch, I can hit him."  But he missed as well.  A third man came up and made a similar remark, and fired, and the little fellow dropped."

                                    Major Scott Anthony, U.S. Army


           " I did not see a body of a man, woman, child but was scalped; and I many instances their bodies were mutilated in the most horrible manner, men, women and children, their privates cut out.  I heard one man say that he had cut a woman's private parts out and had them for exhibition on a stick.  I heard another man say that he had but the fingers off an Indian to get the rings on the hand.  I also heard of numerous instances in which men had cut out the private parts of females and stretched them over the saddle bows, and wore them over their hats while riding in the ranks."

                                    First Lieutenant James Connor, U.S. Army


            From following testimony was made to a Congressional tribunal which ultimately determined that the massacre resulted from "the fiendish malignity and cruelty of the officers who had so sedulously and carefully plotted the massacre."  Nevertheless, none of the white men who took part in this massacre were ever convicted of a crime.

           "It is difficult to believe that beings in the form of me, and disgracing the uniforms of United States soldiers and officers, could commit or countenance the commission of such acts of cruelty and barbarity....Governor Evans (Colorado) in a proclamation calls upon all "either individually or in such parties as they may organize, to kill and destroy as enemies of the country, wherever they may be found, all such hostile Indians."   What Indians he would ever term friendly it s impossible to tell.  His testimony...was characterized by such prevarication and shuffling as has been shown by no witness they have examined during the four years they have been engaged in their investigation....As to Colonel Chivington, your committee can hardly find fitting terms to describe his conduct....he deliberately planned and executed a found and dastardly massacre which would have disgraced the veriest savage among those who were the victims of his cruelty.  Having full knowledge of their friendly character, having himself been instrumental to some extent in placing them in their position of fancied security, h took advantage of their inapprehension...t gratify the worst passions that ever cursed the heart of men."

                                    Joint Special Committee of the United States Congress



            General Philip H. Sheridan famously commented during the Indian Wars of the 19th century that the "only good Indian is a dead one."  Sheridan promoted policies that encouraged white hunters to slaughter herds of buffalo in order to starve the western tribes into submission:


           "The buffalo hunters have done settle the vexed Indian question than the entire regular army....For the sake of lasting peace, let them kill, skin, and sell until the buffalos are exterminated."

                                                General Philip H. Sheridan, U.S. Army


            "Everything the Kiowas had came from the buffalo.  Our tipis were made of buffalo hides, so were our clothes and moccasins.  We ate buffalo meat.  Our containers were made of hide, or of bladders or stomachs.  The buffalo were the life of the Kiowas."

                                                Old Lady Horse, Kiowa


            "In despair, I look toward the cliffs behind me and I seem to see a dim trail that may lead to a way of life; but no Indian ever passed over that trail.  It looks to be impassable.  I make the attempt.  I take my child by the hand, and my wife follows me.  Our hands and our feet are torn by the sharp rocks, and our trail is marked by our blood.  At last, I see a rift in the rocks.  A little way beyond there are green prairies.  The Swift Running Water pours down between the green islands.  There are the graves of my fathers.  There again we will pitch our tepee and build our fires.  I see the light of the world just ahead. 

            But in the center of that path there stands a man.  Behind him I see soldiers like the leaves of the trees.  If that man gives permission, I may pass on to life and liberty.  If he refuses, I must go back and sink forever beneath the raging flood...

            You are that man!"

                                Standing Bear, Ponca: from a speech made to U.S. District Court Judge Elmer Dundy


            "Crow country is good country.  The Creator put it exactly in the right place;  while you are in it you fare well; whenever you are out of it, whichever way you travel, you fare worse...the Crow country has snowy mountains and sunny plains, all kinds of climates and good things for every season.  When the summer heats scorch the prairie, you can draw up under the mountains where the air is sweet and cool, and the bright streams come tumbling out of the snowbanks.  Crow country is in exactly the right place."

                                                            Arapooish, Crow


            "We soon learned that the Whites expected us to keep their laws, but they thought nothing of breaking them themselves.  They told us not to drink whiskey, yet they traded it to us for furs and robes until both were nearly gone.  Their Wise Ones said we might have their religion...we saw that the white man did not take his religion any more seriously than he did his laws, and that he kept both of them just behind him, like Helpers, to use when they might do him good...These were not our ways.  We kept the laws we made and lived our religion.  We have never been able to understand the white man, who fools nobody but himself."

                                                            Plenty-Coups, Crow


            "Our land is more valuable than your money.  It will last forever.  It will not even perish by the flames of fire.  As long as the sun shines and the waters flow, this land will be here to give life to men and animals.  We cannot sell the lives of men and animals.  It was put here for us by the Great Spirit and we cannot sell it because it does not belong to us.  You can count your money and burn it within the nod of a buffalo's head, but only the Great Spirit can count the grains of sand and the blades of grass on the plains.  As a present to you, we will give you anything we have that you can take with you; but the land, never."

                                                            Crowfoot, Blackfoot


            "Whose voice was first heard in this land?  It was the red people.  The Great Father has sent his people out there and left me nothing but an island....The white people have sprinkled blood on the blades of grass about the line of fort Fetterman.  Tell the Great Father to remove that fort, then we will be peaceful and there will be no more trouble.  I have got two mountains in that country -- Black Hills and Big Horn.  I want no roads there.  There have been stakes driven into that country, and I want them removed.  I have told these things three times, and I now have come here to tell them for the fourth time."

                                                            Red Cloud, Oglala


            "Look at me, and look at the earth.  Which is the oldest?  The earth, and I was born on it....It does not belong to u alone; it was our fathers', and should be our children's after us.  When I received it, it was all in one piece, and so I hold it.  If the white men take my country, where can I go.  I cannot spare it, and I love it very much.  Let us alone.  That is what they promised in their treaty, to let us alone.  What is this white soldier doing here?  Why did he come fore?  To spy out the land, and to find a good place for a fort and a road, and to dig out gold?"

                                                            Sitting Bull, Hunkpapa



            After the Battle of the Little BigHorn...


           "We all went over the divide and camped in the valley of the Little Horn.  Everybody thought, "Now we are out of white man's country.  He can live there, we will live here."

            I went to water my horses at the creek, and washed them off with cool water, then took a swim myself.  I came back to the camp afoot.  When I got near my lodge, I looked up the Little Horn towards Sitting Bull's camp.  I saw a great dust rising.  It looked like a whirlwind...I saw flags come up over the hill to the east....Then the soldiers rose all at once...the Sioux rode up the ridge on all sides, riding very fast.  The Cheyenne went up the left way.  Then the shooting was quick and we circled all around, swirling like water round a stone...Soldiers in line drop, but one man rides up and down the line, all the time shouting.  He rode a sorrel horse with white face and white fore-legs.  I don't know who he was.  He was a brave man.

            All the soldiers were now killed, and were left where they fell.  We had no dance that night.  We were sorrowful."

                                                            Two Moons, Northern Cheyenne


            "I wish all to know that I do not propose to sell any part of my country, nor will I have the whites cutting our timber along the rivers, more especially the oak.  I am particularly fond of the little groves of oak trees.  I love to look at them because they endure the wintry storm and the summer's heat and, not unlike ourselves, seem to flourish by them."

                                                            Sitting Bull, Hunkpapa


            "The white man does not understand the Indian for the reason that he does not understand America.  He is too far removed...the roots of the tree of his life have not yet grasped the rock and soil.  The white man is still troubled with primitive fears; he still has in his consciousness the perils of this frontier continent, some of its vastness not yet having yielded to his questing footsteps and inquiring eyes....The man from Europe is still a foreigner and an alien.  And he still hates the man who questioned his path across the continent.  But in the Indian the spirit of the land is still vest; it will be until other men are able to divine and meet its rhythm.  Men must be born and reborn to belong.  Their bodies must be formed of the dust of their forefathers' bones."

                                                            Standing Bear, Oglala



            In the words of General Crook, the war against the Nez Perce was one of the most extraordinary military campaigns in American history.  Among many other things, it produced one of America's greatest 19th century orators, Chief Joseph.


           "My father was the first to see through the schemes of the white men.  One day he sent for me.  I saw he was dying.  He said, When I am gone, think of your country.  You are the chief of these people.  They look to you to guide them.  Always remember that your father never sold his country.  You must stop your ears whenever you are asked to sign a treaty selling your home.  A few more years and the white men will be all around you.  They have their eyes on this land.  My son, never forget my dying words.  This country holds your father's body.  Never sell the bones of your father and your mother."

                                                            Chief Joseph, Nez Perce


            "The earth was created by the assistance of the sun, and it should be left as it was.  The country was made without lines of demarcation, and it is no man's business to divide it.  I see the whites all over the country gaining wealth, and see their desire to give us lands which are worthless...Perhaps you think the Creator sent you here to dispose of us as you see fit.  If I thought you were sent by the Creator I might be induced to think you had a right to dispose of me.  Do not misunderstand me, but understand me fully with reference to my affection for the land.  I never said the land was mine to do with it as I chose.   The one who has the right to dispose of it is the one who has created it.  I claim a right to live on my land, and accord you the privilege to live on yours.

            So let me be a free man -- free to travel, free to stop, free to work, free to trade where I choose, free to choose my own teachers, free to follow the religion of my fathers, free to think and talk and act for myself."

                                                            Chief Joseph, Nez Perce


             "An Indian reservation is a parcel of land set aside for the exclusive use of Indians, and is surrounded by thieves."

                                                            General William Tecumseh Sherman


1890 - On the murder of Sitting Bull:


           "I read that the great Sioux leader is dead, that he was set upon in the dist of his family, with his wives and children and relatives around him, that he committed no overt act of war.

            I read that they have buried his body like a dog's -- without funeral rights....That is the deed of today.  That is the best this generation has to give to this noble, historic character, this man who in his person ends the line of aboriginal sanctities older than the religion of Christian or Jew.  Very Well!  So let it stand for the present.  But there is a generation coming that shall reverse this judgment of ours.  Our children shall build monuments to those whom we stoned, and the great aboriginals whom we killed will be counted by future Americans as among the historic characters of the Continent....for as the Lord liveth (sic) and my soul liveth (sic) a monument shall be built on that spot before many years, inscribe to the memory of the last great Prophet of the Sioux."

                                                            Fletcher Johnson, U.S. citizen



            Led by the Paiute medicine man, Wavodka, plains tribes turn to the Ghost Dance to reconnect them with their fallen ancestors, and to protect them in future battles.  White communities are so alarmed by this resurgence of Indian religion that they call on the government to put it down immediately.  One casualty of this policy will be mayhem in the Black Hills.  Another will be the senseless massacre by the 7th Cavalry of Big Foot's band of women, children, and old people, at a little known stream called Wounded Knee.


            "The Indians must be killed as fast as they make an appearance and before they can do any damage.  It is better to kill an innocent Indian occasionally than to take chances on goodness.  To exterminate them it will be necessary to employ first class killers, regardless of expense....The Indians continue to dance and defy the soldiers, and even to defy them to fight, and declare that they will continue to dance to their heart's content....In the name of all that is sensible, why were the soldiers moved from all quarters of this continent if not to subdue this insolence of a savage race, to take their arms from them, to stop their infernal ghost dancing?"

                                                            Editorial, Black Hills Daily Times


            "Suddenly, I heard a single shot from the direction of the troops -- then three or four -- a few more -- and immediately a volley.  At once came a general rattle of rifle firing, then the Hotchkiss guns.

            The Hotchkiss guns opened fire on the little central band of Indians -- 106 men and 252 women and children.  Every warrior, including Big Foot himself, who was ill in his tent with pneumonia, was killed or seriously wounded.  The Indian women and children fled, some of them on up out across the prairie, but soldiers followed them and shot them down mercilessly....The boom of the Hotchkiss guns and rattle of the rifles satisfied me that hardly an Indian would be left alive.  I had known definitely that not one single leading man among all the Sioux bands intended or wanted to fight."

                                                            Thomas Tibbles, U.S. Cavalry


            "It was a good winter day when all this happened.  The sun was shining.  But after the soldiers marched away from their dirty work, a heavy snow began to fall.  The wind came up in the night.  There was a big blizzard, and it grew very cold.  The snow drifted deep in the crooked gulch, and it was one long grave of butchered women and children and babies, who had never done any harm and were only trying to run away."

                                                            Black Elk, Oglala


            "Talk not of grief till thou hast seen the tears of warlike men."

                                                            Crooked Arm, Cree


            "In my fifty years on the plains, I have never known war to break out with these tribes because an Indian leader broke his word."

                                                            General Harney, U.S. cavalry